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Theology

In today’s Bible reading, Peter paints a very sad picture of the state of the false teachers. Worship leader and songwriter, Billy Foote’s latest song, “All the Wolves” paraphrases Peter’s words.

Destructive heresies. Greed. Made up stories. Bold arrogant people. Slander. Spots. Blemishes. Delighting in their deceptions. Eyes full of adultery, never stopping to look for sin. Gone astray by abandoning the straight path. Loving the wages of wickedness. Springs without water. Mists driven by a storm.

The list of descriptions of these false teachers continues through 2 Peter 2. If these descriptions are true, why would any child of God follow such evil people? Peter partially answers the question in 2 Peter 2:14b, “They seduce unstable people.” (CSB) Paul adds, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3 (CSB)

Application

Because they’re deceptive, they’re difficult to see. It’s like the devil. He isn’t a guy in a red suit with a pointed tail like you see in cartoons. False teachers may look slick. They may sound slick. But like wolves in sheepskin, don’t judge by outward appearances.

So how do you guard against false teachers? The Apostles give us the answers we need: Don’t be unstable. Learn sound doctrine. Read widely in your Bible, not just your favorite passages and your favorite books of the Bible. Log time in the Word. Surround yourself with consistently-strong Bible teachers. And be careful what you read and who you watch/listen to. Some of the “big names” in Bible teachers may be the worst offenders!

One of the best things you can do is plug into a solid Bible-teaching, Spirit-led church. (And I’m not just talking about going to church; I’m talking about plugging into a local church.) There you’ll find help in discerning the good and the bad, the true and the false.

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Ministry costs money

In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?

I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.

But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)

Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.

Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.

In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.

Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!

Application

Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.

Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.

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Martin Luther

As i read today’s Bible reading, I instantly thought of Martin Luther’s powerful hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”.

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way, and then the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and will bring him to nothing at the appearance of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:7–8 CSB)

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure,—
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers—
No thanks to them—abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also:
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is for ever.

“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther

Application

As you consider the Second Coming of Jesus and His judgment on the lost, are you comforted or worried? If you are a Believer, you have nothing to be worried about! Your judgment has already been dealt with decisively in the death of Jesus on a cross almost two thousand years ago! There is no sin you could commit that could undo the provision God has already given you in Jesus! There no sin that is more powerful than the love, the grace, and the mercy of God!

But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote. (2 Thessalonians 2:13–15

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Jonathan Edwards

In today’s Bible reading, following his brief greeting, Paul assures the Thessalonians that God will take care of those who persecute Christians. I’m sure the Thessalonians were on board with Paul’s promise until they read what is now labeled as 2 Thessalonians 1:7, “This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels, when he takes vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (CSB)

Jesus’ Disciples expected Jesus to come in and right all the wrongs by the Romans against the Jews. They expected Jesus to ride in on a white horse and assume His throne. That didn’t happen because it wasn’t His time to do that. It still isn’t. The Disciples were disappointed. The Thessalonians were disappointed. And persecuted Christians today are disappointed.

It’s another reminder that God’s Word is sure and God’s timing is not our timing. “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (CSB)

God is gracious, merciful, and patient, giving guilty people time to repent. But a time will come when His patience will run out. He will pour out His wrath on the unrighteous. And that will be a day of wailing and gnashing of teeth. That will not be a good day from the perspective of any human. But it will be a good day for God. His righteousness will be vindicated.

Puritan preacher/theologian Jonathan Edwards, in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” expressed his perspective in similar ways. Contrary to popular thought about the sermon — and Edwards — the sermon is about God’s mercy, not His wrath. The sermon is about God’s pleasure to restrain His wrath in order to give men a chance to repent and turn to Him.

“There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”[1]

Application

God is good to grant time for repentance. It’s in the midst of persecution that Believers must remain faithful to His call, despite how things look. Christian Hedonism makes faithfulness in the face of persecution possible.

And it’s part of being ready for Jesus’ return.

[1] Source: Monergism website

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Beware the Wolves

I read today’s Bible reading a few hours after I read a Facebook post from friends, Billy and Cindy Foote. In Billy’s new song, he has set the Prosperity Gospel peddlers in his crosshairs and fired his shot.

Billy begins his song, “All the Wolves”, with, “I know some preacher men, men with some business plans. And I think this must be said. They’re making millions selling Jesus. They take but they never give.”[1]

Billy’s description could not be further than the reality of Paul’s description of the preaching to and the reception of the Gospel by the Thessalonians.

For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our visit with you was not without result. On the contrary, after we had previously suffered and were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition. For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness— and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. 1 Thessalonians 2:1–6 (CSB)

The ideas of difficulty and suffering are foreign to the wolves. The wolves come only to take and never give.

Application

The wolves are everywhere. They dress well and they sound good. They may also look like sheep. But beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Be careful who you listen to. Be careful who you watch. Be careful who you read. Even the most popular Bible teachers and preachers can be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Look at the fruit of their work. Stay connected to the Word. Examine everything you hear, everything you see, everything you read. Run it through the filter of all of God’s Word. Does it fit with what you see in your Bible?

[1] Please take a few moments to listen and read the lyrics to Billy’s latest song, “All the Wolves“. Prepare

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